St. Paul foundry Northern Iron fined over $40K for air quality violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said it fined Northern Iron LLC $41,500 after an investigation revealed the company “removed, modified, or replaced pollution control equipment” and that it did not reveal certain activities happening at its foundry when applying for a permit.

MPCA said in a news release that five separate investigations revealed 15 years of violations where the company “failed to disclose updates or changes” to its equipment as its permit requires.

The violations include the company removing and replacing emission units and control equipment, failing to rectify hoods after making the changes and operating some of the pollution control equipment outside of permitted ranges.

The MPCA adds that Northern Iron did not list the facility’s activities which would require it to conduct ambient air modeling. Air quality modeling is the process of calculating the concentrations of pollutants in the air.

Northern Iron was ordered to make the following corrective actions in addition to paying the fine:

  • Submitting a plan to ensure initial and annual hood certifications are completed on time.
  • Seeking appropriate permit amendments when determining need to replace or remove equipment.
  • Operating all air quality control equipment according to current permit requirements, its updated operation and maintenance plan, and manufacturer specifications.
  • Submitting a complete major permit amendment, an ambient air modeling protocol and modeling results.
  • Keeping track of and submitting daily operating hours for furnace melting, metal casting, and metal finishing operations. In addition to operating hours, the company must also track production throughout for the furnace melting and metal casting operations.

The MPCA said the company’s violations risk increasing emissions by having less effective hoods to capture particulate matter — a lack of modeling which is needed to ensure compliance with air quality standards.

Lawton Standard, the current owner of Northern Iron, released the following written statement in response to the MPCA’s actions:

“Lawton Standard is the current owner of Northern Iron and this action by the MPCA was in process at the time it was acquired. We have worked cooperatively with the department to update the air permit and to test our emissions to verify that that meet all guidelines. However, it should be noted to be fair to the former owner and the conscientious employees at Northern Iron, that the cause for this fine and the requirement for testing comes from changes that were made that were intended to improve particulate emissions but the permit itself was not updated. There was at least one attempt to correct this but there was no response from the MPCA until the action commenced. 

Northern Iron intends to remain to a good citizen to its neighbors in St Paul and is cooperating fully with the MPCA to correct the permit.”